It's officially September, and that means it's time to start thinking about the biggest event on the Fall aca-calendar: SoJam.
On it's return tour to North Carolina, SoJam is back this year and shaping up to be better than ever. That's a pretty high bar considering all the lore that surrounds the festival - in case you didn't know, SoJam is basically the festival of legends.
With three weeks left til the SoJam competition deadline, I wanted to share our favorite stories from legendary Friday night SoJam performances that shaped the futures of some of the biggest groups in the game right now. Could your group be the next crazy story in the a cappella history books?
First, a little background....
The SoJam collegiate competition was the original title-fight of a cappella: the best heavy hitters from all around the country competing for bragging rights and to set the bar of art coming from the community. In my time, I’ve seen groups like Pitch Slapped demonstrate what a good groove and fire backing vocals can do to lighten up a crowd. I’ve seen the Nor’easters explore power and angst with a good bit of orchestral and foreign influence. MIX and Lark have explored more traditional theatrical portrayals of romance and civil rights justice. SoJam is a stage for artistry at its highest form. In 2011, we brought The Sing Off to a live stage. SoJam was the first to invest in individual microphones and a full production system - and the group performances rose up to the challenge.
2011: A Slap Heard Round The World
By now, you may have heard of a little group out of Berklee known as Pitch Slapped. They've done a few things, like a run on the Sing-Off, a winning trip to ICCA Finals or two, and they're still working hard and putting out some of the best music in the industry.
What you may *not* know is the story of their drop-the-mic level SoJam performance after winning the ICCA in April. That time when Hannah Juliano, Sam Schultz, and Ingrid Andress broke into their classic 70s trio slide that made the audience lose their minds, preparing for the infinite key changes of the uplifting Love on Top.
See the full video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K2sbsHESobw
That trio choreo is a fan favorite to this day....
Full video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZiItRmmFDv8
2012: Johanna, Jessie, and Sam, oh my
At the famous SoJam X, a group you may have seen before, like at the award ceremony for this year's ICCA, stepped up to the plate for the first in a series of many major wins.
Operating on the sound system planned for Pentatonix and Fork, the Nor’easters gave us a “best hits” including As Long as You Love Me, Give Me Love, Don’t Wake Me Up / Spectrum, Cold War, and Sweet Nothing.
Watch now: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uTzh-g7na3g.
Running the board was like juggling knives and flaming torches as David Crozier and Beejul Khatri darn near blew up the subwoofers. That year we were introduced to the power trio of Jessie Litwin, Sam Creighton, and Johanna Martendaal, introduced to the Meghan Bliss sop treatment, and reminded of the power of Brian León, Jill Gleason, and Ty Myers. Oh… not to mention a guy named Shams was holdin’ down that tenor (and all of the arrangements).When the beat comes in:
And then again 5 years later:
2013: The Year MIX Brought A Train
MIX’s famous competition winning set revolved around some pretty ridiculous story ideas. The train noise in Barton Hollow sets up the story of a Bonnie and Clyde duo running from the law.
Hear it again: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HfOJV9db7jM
Moving into Bottom of the River (where Michelle Ghun absolutely SHREDS the lead), we enter a small village as a witch leads the townspeople happily into a church, which she then proceeds to light on fire, killing everyone inside.
Not your average a cappella set, but of course, SoJam isn't your average a cappella competition.
2014: Who Run the World? Belles.
The AcaBelles have been playing hard in the SoJam game since the beginning, and they finally won the gammot in 2014. I was still reminiscing about their 2nd place finish in 2011...I think my wife said it best.
"The Acabelles came out to SoJam with no fear, showing everyone that you can be impactful, sexy and talented all at the same time. They sang with power while doing Beyonce's original choreography, showing that girls truly do run the world." - Angela Longo, Former AcaBelles MD
Watch the full set: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IOC7V5P_TPE&
2015: Lark Raises The Bar...and Andrea.
When Lark takes the stage, you know you’re in for an artistic journey. We were graced with Andrea Pares’ giant gold skirt for her powerful Pistols at Dawn. When I say giant gold skirt… she was legit on top of a high chair.
Watch it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IDU1zWJfOEI
Amanda McCoo and Patrice Mondragon gave us a touching rendition of Formidable following the Paris terrorist attacks, leading to Michelle Ghun’s spoken word exploration of the presence and passing of a loved one. What really took the cake though, was Lindsay Lynette and Alayna Kendig’s creepy doll twin rendition of Mad Hatter, which made everyone in the audience’s skin crawl.
See the music video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ps5XKJ8ozS8
2016: In a Box No More
Last year's SoJam champs, Voicebox, brought the title back to Florida and showed what happened when you combine pop with opera and make it a little creepy.
Catch Round 3 here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C-PR8Qo42f4
The set was great and the win well deserved, but my favorite Voicebox SoJam moment actually happened in 2015. Leave it up to Harrison Acosta and his whacky band of troubadours to flip a night on its head. In the beautiful Schwartz Center, the lights go out and Voicebox WHIPS into ZEDD’s Transmission with LIGHT STRIPS ON THEIR CLOTHES.
I understand where they get their "Out of the Box" tagline from.
2017: Who's next?
Competing at SoJam may not be easy...but history tells you, it's totally worth it. Whether you want to compete or just watch as history writes itself, you need to be at SoJam 2017! Talk to your group and get yourselves to Durham, NC on October 27th-28th, 2017. I'll be behind the sound board, and look forward to running sound for your group on Friday night.